I don’t get much news, even less of the pop-culture variety. What I do get comes third hand from my girlfriend or backhand from the Onion. Hence my surprise when Rod Stewart popped up on my bookface yesterday. He’s someone I vaguely remember as being a farce even when I was immersed in t.v. culture a decade ago, the punchline of some recurrent, off-color joke about a stomach full of horse semen and generally being an effete nobody.
Why was he in my news, given his irrelevancy divided by my pop-culture avoidance? In some apparent bid to remain on the lips and fingernails’ grip of some population’s zeitgeist, Stewart visited Newfoundland and made his way into the news by posing for pictures in a sealskin coat, throwing his support behind the seal clubbing trade. The man looks to be made of sallow leather already, does he need another layer?
Seal clubbing is a controversial issue. On one hand, you have the ecological damage done by removing an entire generation of mid-level predators, one that provides food for larger animals such as Orca, themselves endangered, and Inuit peoples, whose natural diet once consisted heavily of seal (before the seal population plummeted), and on the other hand you have the abundance of lame coats available for assholes.
It’s a difficult issue, one that brings me to a belief I’ve been espousing more and more over the last few years:
Musicians with careers over four decades long need to call it quits. Maybe there were better drugs in decades past, or worse medical practices. Maybe there was a stronger sense of how ridiculous it is to see an octogenarian on stage in leather pants, talking about love problems and how his mom won’t let him have the car on saturday for prom. Maybe audiences were simply younger, and therefore less accepting of ancient pop stars.
The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Rod “punchline” Stewart. All these guys should have retired before I was born. How many golden toilet seats do you need?
I get it, though, I get not wanting to give up something you like, something that pays you inordinate amounts of money. That instant validation of any action you take stemming from people screaming your name, or at least twittering a thumbs up at your post about peanut butter not really being butter.
But for that, for their inability to let go, to retire and be comfortable, we get musical stagnation. Why should a predatory record company take a risk on someone new when a bankable name still puts out (shitty) records? Why try something new when you can chew the same gum that lost its flavor three decades ago, that’s only flavor comes from nostalgia and the effort it takes to chew something gone bland?
Because it sucks. Your next piece might suck, too, but if you never get to try it you’ll never know whether it’s just more flavorless trash or your new favorite piece.